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A Passion for Helping Community Cats – A Volunteer Blog

I am a cat lover. I’m pretty sure you are too. So- we have this in common.  Someday I may be able to hear your stories but, in the meantime, let me tell you a small piece of mine.

I love dogs to pieces, but cats have always been dearest to my heart. They are so special, so resourceful and loving – or not. They are gorgeous, stoic, and so much more.

I was near 5 when I watched Alice in Wonderland for the first time. You may remember the story. Wouldn’t you know I worried about that kitty that waited for Alice after she swirled down the tunnel! “Mom, who will take care of that kitty?’ I repeated this over and over during the entire movie!

As I grew up, it was the stray cat or kitty in a pet store for which I begged. Much later I got involved with a local animal welfare group. After a few months I was hooked and found myself elected President. Rosary, the founder, was my mentor as she was so ahead of her times. In 1971 she was a champion of spay/neuter and adoption quality- not quantity.

Moving to Tennessee in 1973, I fully expected to find a local animal welfare group but found none. OOPS! Culture shock!  I had to do something. Boxes not even unpacked yet- I was out searching. What did the county do with stray animals? How did they euthanize them? Were there any good options for care? How many stray animals did I see running in the streets? What I found was not pretty, even terrible.

I put a letter to Editor in the local newspaper (only networking opportunity we had then) for volunteers to help me start a humane society. I got 30 phone calls. The Sumner County Humane Society was founded.

I stayed with the shelter for many years, learning and caring for local animals, and helping groups in surrounding counties get started. In 2010, my priority shifted to spay/neuter. Long story short, our clinic, the Sumner Spay Neuter Alliance, was founded and opened in 2011.

Several years prior to this time the plight of feral cats, or community cats came to my attention. In case you are not familiar with a feral or community cat, here goes. Truly “feral” means completely unsocialized and would probably rip you a new face if given the chance. However, we recognize that sometimes feral just means scared. That kitty might be adoptable, or placed back with the colony if no suitable home or barn is available. Today we try to keep it simple. We call them all “community cats”. They often live in colonies. They often have caretakers. Some might be friendly. Some are truly feral because they are offspring of another feral cat. Some may have never been touched by human hands.  Others could be neighborhood kitties, traveling from home to home to be fed. Everyone claims them but no one claims them.

Naturally the question of outdoor cats and their reproduction is a monstrous concern. The answer is TNR, or Trap Neuter and Return to their outdoor home to which they are accustomed. TNR is the only non-lethal method to control outdoor cat populations.

Since I am most passionate about community cats, my SUV contains a plethora of humane traps, trap covers, bait food, blankets, trap floor pads, meds, etc.  On a day last June, I was referred to a residence that has 50, 60 or more reproducing cats. My guess is that they started with 5 or 6 cats a few years ago, but it got away from them. Adult twin sisters live in a ramshackle old farmhouse and take care of their mom with dementia.  On the porch are dilapidated lounge chairs, torn cardboard boxes, wooden shelving units, and weathered tarps where cats find their security. Every week I went back until over 50 kitties were spayed and neutered and returned. More than 20 friendly kitties were removed and placed through a rescue friend. The mother with dementia thinks I’m stealing her kitties sometimes when I am carrying them away in a trap. But she loves me when I bring them cat food!

Most of the cats, even the unsociable ones, come running when they see my car because they know it means food. I delight in seeing them have a few minutes of pleasure eating canned cat food. This life is all that they know, and they seem content.

I’ve been reading EveryCat Health Foundation’s newsletter since before the name change. I want to know more about this organization and contribute written information if they will allow me. I’m so proud the Foundation has made strong strides in cat health, and I look to the future for so much more to be done. I am especially interested in the URI studies, as it is what most community cats’ hassle within large hoards like the one mentioned!

Every Cat Health Foundation, thank you for being here!

P.S. Is it a coincidence that I am originally from Wyckoff, New Jersey? I formerly shopped and ate lunch in a cozy restaurant in the commercial center EveryCat Health Foundation calls home. I had no idea they were there! I really don’t believe in coincidences, but I believe something good is coming!

 

~June McMahon, Gallatin, TN

Ms. McMahon says, “I have never had a career just wanted to help animals. In 1973 I founded our county Humane Society and later our spay neuter clinic. Both in Tennessee. However in wondering what a paying job might be like, I served as the regional director for the American Diabetes Association for a few years in the 80’s. I left that position to manage, as publicity director, a band for about a year. But ultimately, it back to the animals to date.